Robert Longo (b. 1953), Death Star, 1993; 18,000 brass and copper bullets; steel armature, diameter of sphere: 36 inches; steel armature: 98 x 120 inches; Anonymous gift, 2016
Robert Longo’s Death Star—sometimes called Bullet Ball—concludes a frightening series of dystopian images begun in 1990. The first piece, Black Flags, was a series of cast paper relief hanging black flags symbolizing punishment, hazard, and anarchy. In 1993, he continued the theme with Bodyhammers: The Cult of the Gun, a series of eight large-scale charcoal and graphite gun drawings and a single sculpture: Death Star. Composed of 18,000 brass and copper bullets affixed in waves across the globe’s surface and suspended from a steel armature, Death Star represents the number of gun homicide deaths in the United States in a single year (1993). As a whole, the series addressed the evocative image of the gun as the symbol of ever-increasing violence. The glistening golden ball changes with light, incorporating the contradictions of simultaneous terror and beauty, grandeur and threat.
Born in 1953 in Brooklyn, Longo graduated from SUNY College at Buffalo in 1976. He helped found Hallwalls in 1974, named for the exhibition hallway created between his studio and those of his colleagues in the Ashford Hollow Building on Essex Street. By the end of the decade, they left for New York, established as artists who defined an era of appropriating pictures to give new meaning. —AB